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Natural disasters can have a serious impact on infrastructure assets. Seismic action from earthquakes and volcanoes can break concrete and twist reinforcing steel bars while flooding from excessive rain, tsunamis, or severe storm events can inundate infrastructure assets with water, mud, and debris. In the worst case scenario, these impacts can cause complete failure of the asset and a major disruption in the service will likely ensue.

While there are still unknowns about when and where a natural disaster will strike, research has determined that with a degree of statistical confidence, the magnitude, location, and recurrence interval of a given disaster can be predicted. By understanding its vulnerability to a natural disaster, infrastructure owners can better prepare for the consequences and take measures to ensure that the impacts, both financial and structural, can be minimized. For example, armed with information on the vulnerability, asset managers within local government can prioritize replacement and/or rehabilitation programs that will make infrastructure assets less vulnerable to failure.

Maunsell Ltd. (Auckland, New Zealand) and Metcalf & Eddy (Wakefield, MA) are working with the Auckland City Council (ACC) to develop a program that will enable asset managers to make more informed decisions regarding the rehabilitation and/or replacement of infrastructure assets in order to reduce ACC's overall vulnerability (structural and financial) to catastrophic natural disasters, such as: earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, and flooding events.

The ACC Vulnerability Assessment program integrates asset attribute information from ACC's Asset Management Information System (AMIS) and research conducted on natural disasters from Lifelines programs, into a cartographic and tabular format. From this, asset managers can determine where vulnerable assets are located, the extent to which they are vulnerable, and the financial impacts (maximum probable loss) that could result if the asset was destroyed in a catastrophic natural disaster.

In addition to identifying the presence of a problem, the program also enables asset managers to evaluate potential rehabilitation, replacement, and relocation options in order to reduce the asset's vulnerability, thereby reducing the potential fallout and financial implications.

This paper discusses the first phase of the program and includes a discussion on why a similar proactive approach to infrastructure management is appropriate in the United States.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2004

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